Blu-ray Review: Houdini

If you’ve watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles, you need not worry, as the line about Harry Houdini’s fate delivered by John Candy is not a spoiler to the classic biography/drama, Houdini, starring Tony Curtis, which was released on Blu-ray last year by Signal One Entertainment in the UK.

World-renowned escape artist, Harry Houdini had been dead 27 years by the time of this film’s release, so you can imagine there would have been a sizeable portion of audiences who remembered him, and who’d even seen him perform live. Houdini makes a considerable effort to preserve the fond public perception of his image by delivering a traditional story of humble beginnings to immense stardom. The legend’s untimely passing, an inevitable part of the story, is treated more as a fleeting celebration of his achievements, rather than dwelling on the tragic loss. However, the contributing factors that led to Houdini’s death in this fictionalised narrative, do somewhat pale in compassion to what occurred in real life.

Interestingly, the film tries to insert a hint of the supernatural, suggesting that Houdini had somehow obtained a link to the other side, explaining his seemingly impossible feats. It’s a clumsy attempt, and the film never really follows through with the idea, apart from exploring our lead’s obsession with contacting the spirit world following his mother’s passing.

You knowyou couldve killed meslugging me in the gut when I wasn’t ready. That’s how Houdini died, you know.

Tony Curtis, who was a relative newcomer at the time, gives a very playful and energetic performance as Harry Houdini. The Hungarian American doesn’t resemble his real-life counterpart, but that’s not surprising. Armed with his working-class New York accent, the actor portrays a relatable fellow who’s eager to please and charm those he encounters, especially his love interest played by Curtis’ real-life wife, Janet Leigh. The pair share great chemistry, and together their genuine affection for one another steers the film away from melodrama.


  • Stills Gallery


Houdini has barely escaped the straight jacket of being a first-generation HD presentation. Despite vivid colours, the 1.37:1 image is flawed with a strange edging effect as if the film had been scanned incorrectly. There’s also a noticeable amount of grain, resulting in a very rough texture. Sound quality fares much better as the 1.0 Mono track is pretty good and English subtitles are included.

Houdini is an overall flattering and non-offensive portrayal of one of the early 20th century’s most captivating performers, and while it doesn’t strive for historical accuracy, it’s a movie that serves its fundamental purpose to entertain.  – Visit to browse their full selection.

(1953, director: George Marshall)



direct blu-ray screen captures


You can follow cinematic randomness on Twitter and Facebook where you’ll find all my cinematic exploits. Thank you for visiting!

Scroll to Top